“So this is Christmas. And what have you done?”
Well, we’ve actually done a fair bit if you must know Mr Lennon. I’ve quit my job, turned 40, rented out our flat, written a film script, we’ve moved to Budapest and become parents for the first time to a beautiful little cub. So all in all, a fairly eventful, epic year. And as I sit here in a remote Hungarian village surrounded by people muttering in tongues, with a belly full of what I think was goose (although I’m not entirely sure), with Home Alone playing in Hungarian in the background, I can’t help but feel reflective.
One of the things that I’m reflecting on, naturally, is fatherhood. It’s a fairly life changing thing that I’m still trying to fully get my melon head around. They say that you need to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become an expert at something. Well I’ve now been a Dad for 3,424 hours so I’m more than a quarter of the way to becoming a guru (my graduation date is August 25, 2017). I still have a fair amount to learn, but I’m getting there. I’ve at the very least progressed to intermediate level. With this in mind, seeing as it’s Christmas, I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve learnt in those 3,424 hours with the world…
1. Child birth is like the the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but for hours
People often quote the day that their child was born as their happiest ever day. What they usually fail to mention is that it’s also one of the most terrifying, savage, brutal and tiring days of your life. At least it was for us! A lot of it was, in my imagination at least, like living through the D-Day landings. Scenes of horror with people running around, barking orders in a foreign language. Obviously there were huge moments of unadulterated joy and emotion that I’d never previously experienced, but there were also moments that still haunt me. Witnessing a baby’s head doing unimaginable things to my beloved wife being one of those moments. Shudder. Apparently this isn't the case for everyone, with some women slipping the baby out as easily as shelling peas. Lucky buggers!
2. Changing a nappy is very much like mackerel fishing
You wait ages for one to come along and then you get a whole shoal of shits all at once. Plus no matter how much you scrub, no matter how much cream you apply, the scent lingers. It reminds me of my mackerel fishing adventures as a child in Tenby. I used to spend hours scrubbing my hands, smothering myself in industrial strength soap. Made no difference. I still stunk of mackerel for days.
3. Cleaning up shit is never joyous
Staying with nappies for a moment, one of the most daunting prospects of parenthood for me was having to clean up shit. I mean, I've never liked cleaning up other people's shit. People said, “You won't mind when it's your own.” Well you know what? Bullshit! Changing a shitty nappy is, and always will be a chore. I might prefer to clean up my babies shit than clean up your shit for example (no offence), but when you open that nappy and see fresh jalfrezi starring back up at you, your heart will always weep. I also had a 'moment', about three weeks in to fatherhood, when a friend with a two year old kid informed me that this nappy changing malarkey goes on for at least a couple of years! I almost passed out.
4. Your evenings are screwed for the next fifteen odd years
A similar moment of clarity hit me a few days ago. Our little human cub is now 20 weeks old. Naturally we put her to bed each evening and the whole process is often quite a rigmarole (she, like many of us, doesn't want to sleep before getting a mouth full of titty). I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before, but I suddenly realised that we're going to have to do this for more than a decade! Christ on a segway!
5. Grandparents are worth their weight in gold. Even the fat ones.
Given point 4, the one thing that keeps me sane is knowing that we have some grandparents around to help out and let us pretend to be the humans that we once were every now and then. Initially I was concerned that I'd find the help from the in-laws overbearing. Now, whenever there's a knock on the door and their smiling, Hungarian faces enter I shed a solitary tear of euphoric joy. Finally someone to hand my baby to so that I can take a five minute break! The first time that they baby sat and we escaped to the cinema to watch Bridget Jones 3 with subtitles, has probably made it in to the top 5 of my ‘life’s greatest moments’.
5. I can't make up my Goddamn mind!
Whenever Mila is asleep I want to wake her up. Whenever Mila is awake I want her to go to sleep. What’s that about?
6. Having a baby is like the Blitz
Six months ago I would have struggled to comprehend how we could function on close to no sleep, smothered in shit, confined to our flat and with something small and fleshy screaming in our ear for hours on end. Now I know we can manage because we have to. We also often find ourselves running to our bunker when we suspect that our exploding baby bomb is about to go off.
Basically, we keep calm and carry on.
7. Babies are wind machines
Mila has a few hobbies, but one of her clear favourites is breaking wind. She’s a beast! Sleeping in the same room as her is like sleeping with a darts player after curry night at Weatherspoons. How can all of this come from something so small and sweet!?
8. Babies breath like a middle aged white man dances
Nobody told me this beforehand, but babies stop breathing for just long enough for you to think that they're fucking dead before they start breathing again. It’s like a middle aged white man dancing at a wedding. It has no rhythm and is not cool. The number of times I've checked on Mila and gone cold when she doesn't seem to be breathing only for her to then let our one big breathe. What is this sadistic madness!?
9. It's amazing
It's tough, it's emotional, we bicker, we cry, we would chop off our own genitals for a lie in, but it's genuinely incredible. You may have had a tough night, but when you wake up and look at your baby and see a beautiful little face smiling back at you it's a thing of pure joy. It's indescribable (despite my best efforts to describe it). Being there to experience Mila grow and develop on a daily basis is priceless, and the risky, some would say bat-shit-mental decisions that we took earlier this year have turned out to be inspired. Being a parent is wonderful and awe inspiring and despite the nappy changing, the lack of sleep and the logistical nightmare that our life has become, we wouldn't have it any other way.